A lightly populated rural region, the Wairarapa is a popular escape for Wellingtonians, being only an hour’s drive away on the other side of the Remutaka Range. This post covers four of the main towns in the region, starting with Masterton, by far the largest town in the Wairarapa, home to ~29,000 people.
Henley Lake Park is an attractive place to start, particularly a still day when there are reflections. The lookout tower was slightly random, and surrounded by geese and black swans.
Queen Elizabeth Park is the main park in Masterton, renamed from Masterton Park in 1954 in honour of the Queen’s visit as part of her coronation world tour. There’s some lovely bedding by the entrance.
Across the road the Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History is well presented, and incorporates an old church into the gallery space.
Next door is the surprisingly interesting Wool Shed, the National Museum of Sheep & Shearing. Opened in 2005, it is housed in two old wool sheds built of native rimu, matai and totara, that were trucked from local farms and joined together.
Heading south-west back toward Wellington, the town of Carterton is the second largest in the region, though a third of the size of Masterton. It has a bit of street art and a distinctive tower built in 1962 to replace the previous earthquake damaged tower.
The nearby Carter Scenic Reserve has an enjoyably varied half hour loop walk included grassland, wetland, shrubland, and forest. Unusually this fantail stayed still long enough to be photographed.
Also close by is the lovely Fensham Reserve Bush with more challenging walking through native bush, with a few views.
Just ten minutes drive down the road from Carterton, Greytown is by far the flashiest town in the Wairarapa, filled with upmarket shops and places to eat.
The only real attraction in Greytown is the excellent Cobblestones Museum, one of the largest collections of heritage buildings in the country and well worth a visit.
Final stop on this trip along SH2 through the Wairarapa is Featherston. It’s been experiencing a bit of a rebirth lately, in part driven by it’s designation as New Zealand’s only official Booktown, with seven bookshops. There’s a fair amount of heritage and things of interest.
To finish with a must visit for anyone vaguely interested in railways. The Fell Locomotive Museum expertly tells the story of the Fell Locomotives which used to climb the infamous Rimutaka Incline over the hills between Wellington and the Wairarapa.